Indigneous plants, pre-European or Pre-Aborigine?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by brettc, Jan 25, 2012.

  1. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    Hi everyone on the forum and congratulations on all the amazing and inspiring work that is being achieved.

    Introducing myself.

    My wife and I are currently planning a nursery and dwelling in the, Yarra Valley, 1 hr NE of Melbourne. We have made our council submission and are waiting to hear back. i am a qualified landscape gardener and plan to offer landscape restoration, with our land utilising permaculture principles and being set up as a demonstration site

    It was really hard to do a plant schedule, when we are not living on the land and as yet don't have a real grasp of site dynamics. All plants had to be indigenous, pre european, where as my focus is on pre-Aboriginal before they started their fire regimes. That was another area of conflict. I went with a mix of pioneer species, Blackwood, with some Manna Gum canopy.

    What is everyone's thoughts on indigenous plants, pre-European or pre-Aborigine and what was growing in Victoria Pre Aborigine?

    Many blessings

    Brett
     
  2. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Welcome brettc :)

    An interest of mine too, however this is not just an Australian Forum we have members from everywhere; so indigenous can mean many different cultures.

    Good luck with your venture But I am told nurserymen only make money when their land is rezoned :(
     
  3. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    Thanks Michaelangelica,

    Haha, you have to do something with your time, even if it it doesn't make a profit, it will still be a very lucrative lifestyle.
     
  4. mluthi69

    mluthi69 Junior Member

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    Hi Brett, welcome. I am curious what sort of design you chose for your future home - did you go for a passive solar/natural materials type of home?

    Cheers,
    Matt
     
  5. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    This is a huge and complicated question. I think most classic permaculture assumes that humans are going to be interacting with the site and expecting some kind of yield from it, and this expectation drives design. Any dwelling on land could easily bring with it the expectations of some food, water, and energy provision, and waste disposal. Lacking this, one could simply let nature take its course, after which, given long enough, some kind of ecosystem will establish itself (and in most areas of the world it will probably be a "recombinant ecosystem"...a mix of natives and exotics. "Restoration" brings with it the idea of restoring to some point on a timeline, and one must invariably make a more or less arbitrary decision where on that timeline. White cultures bring the bias of imagining that native peoples around the world did not modify their landscape very much and that explorers saw "primitive", "untouched", "virgin" landscapes. In North America too, recent research is showing more and more that nothing could be further from the truth....shifting and permanent horticulture, fire management of game lands and other resources, the spread of local species beyond their native ranges, and the introduction of exotics from distant regions were all taking place. In many cases what settlers were seeing was a newly depopulated landscape (as a result of newly introduced Old World diseases and the ensuing 90%+ dieoff of native populations) that had been managed for millenia before. Where ecosystems are allowed to develop undisturbed now, often something quite different results because the people aren't present.
    Taking the idea a bit further, if one goes only a few lifetimes of the oldest trees back (in both Australia and the Americas, at least), you have the megafauna in the ecosystem. And therefore you had a different ecosystem, since these megafauna interacted with it powerfully, suppressing certain plants, dispersing and increasing others, and so on. One might be able to replant a forest as it looked 10000 years ago, but it wouldn't stay like that. Animals and people are part of ecosystems too, and without them the ecosystem will become something else.
     
  6. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    Thanks for the 'encouragement' Michaelangelica.

    Adiantum, thanks for your insightful answer, certainly got me thinking and thanks for taking the time and if your response is any sign of this forum's knowledge and wisdom, I will be around for a long time . You are spot on about man influencing local flora, though I am unsure of the impact the megafauna had on our flora.

    Only man has the tools of fire, axe and in recent years chainsaw and dozer, so definately they had an impact, an example of Victoria's only indigenous palm comes to mind. The Cabbage-tree palm , Livistonia australis, occurs naturally along the east coast from Qld through NSW and ends in far east Victoria. The thing that has baffled botanists is that there is an isolated stand, of a few acres further southwest and over 150km from any other stand. The only conclusion that could be made is that Aborigines carried the seeds in and camped along the creek and either on purpose or accidentally dispersed these seeds. Does this prove they were agrarian?


    Sorry I got a bit sidetracked, I can't speak for America, though in regards to Australia.

    1. European man has definitely influenced local flora. One example, Black Saturday in Victoria, burnt in our most 'managed' or logged forests in the country. 99% of what burnt was 20 to 50 year old Eucalyptus regrowth. 150 years ago this same area would not burn due to the luxuriant growth of wet and rainforest. So in 150 years 'indigenous' plants have already been altered. On a side note I found some of the original Rainforest in the Central Highlands that stopped the fires of Black Saturday, it was this discovery that inspired me to set up nursery.

    2. Aboriginal impact on indigenous plants.
    In Victoria, rainforest is now restricted to mountain gullies and the higher reaches of our mountain ranges, where as fossil records prove that it once covered most of our flat valley country. Our first explorers, went in search of a mythical inland sea, they only found salt lakes and a dry interior. Aboriginal dreamtime stories mention and fossil records show that Australia at one time did have an inland sea and when we have heavy rainfall in Qld, this flows down into Lake Eyre and creates an inland sea. Did the Aboriginals fire-stick farming of tens of thousands of years reduce Australia's rainforest cover and transpiration into our inland rivers, resulting in over time the drying up of this inland sea, and in turn due to transpiration, reducing SE Australia's rainfall. The drought in SE Australia recently broke after 8 years in 2010 when Lake Eyre became full.

    3. Megafauna impact on indigenous vegetation
    I am merely clutching at straws when discussing something I know so little about. The question to ask is, 'are all animals a result of their environment?' If the megafauna are a result of their environment, how did they destroy or alter it? They came from it and were one and the same. The megafauna could only impact and alter indigenous vegetation if they were introduced to a land that developed separately.

    I believe that only man and climate change has influenced our vegetation for the following reasons
    Victorian rainforest is over 150 million years old with connections to Antarctica, S America, New Zealand and other countries. Due to continental drift of Australia, its climate has changed, it has dried out, become wet, frozen, hot, dry, wet, frozen, hot and so forth in its northward drift. During this time flora and fauna has grown and shrunk, become small or big, though always there is a continued lineage in our fossil records, discovered and yet to be discovered.

    Though this all could be made up:) What if ancient man was anything like today's man and ancient adventurers and colonists merely bought their favourite flora to their new country. This could explain common flora links between countries.

    Sorry to digress, the point I am making is that man is a special creation, had to pull out the God point and as you opened with, that permaculture is all about designing to suit one's needs. Man can only ever create or project what is first thought in the mind.

    Australia's indigenous vegetation didn't fit the agrarian principles or design of European man and so was quickly cleared.

    The original Australian rainforest didn't fit the Aboriginal mindset of hunting in an open forest and was set burnt to open up and promote grass land.

    The megafauna didn't have an agenda or projection and simply fitted in with their environment.

    After all that, I could be wrong:p and referencing rainforest as Australia's original indigenous forest type is only a glimpse of our flora past; 150 million years out of 4,000 million years.

    Anyway I could keep going, though that is enough for now:sweat:
     
  7. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Brett

    Welcome to the PRI Forum.

    Interesting yet contentious topic you raise.

    Recently, I had the great fortune to read The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia (2011) by Bill Gammage. A fascinating, historical account of pre-1788 Australian ecology; and the people that literally made it so. Gammage claims (p. 327) the book offers up a 'tsunami of evidence' for the pro intentional fire school of thought, and I tend to agree with most of what he says.

    My own thesis is predicated on the very fact that the many Nations in residence here in Australia prior to the 1788 wave of European invasion could not have survived - in some instances for many, many millennia - let alone thrived, if it were not indeed for the careful planning and use of fire.

    Of course, my enthusiasm for that part of my own thesis together with any other part or even the whole of other's, such as Gammages, is tempered somewhat by the very recent science coming out in support of the no intentional fire school of thought. Of the latter, I am of course referring to the huge and recently completed study as undertaken by Mooney et al. One can read all about it in their paper: Late Quaternary fire regimes of Australasia. Here's a snippet of my reading of their conclusion from my, as yet unpublished (let alone finished), thesis:

    In their study, Mooney et al (2011, p. 28) ‘compiled 223 sedimentary charcoal records from Australasia in order to examine the temporal and spatial variability of fire regimes during the Late Quaternary [or the previous 70,000 years BP]’. Their finding in relation to the matter is unequivocal: ‘There is no [evidence to support a] distinct change in fire regime corresponding to the arrival of humans in Australia [around 50,000 years BP, give-or-take 10,000 years] and no correlation between archaeological evidence of increased human activity during the past [40,000 years BP] and the history of biomass burning.’ Moreover, but perhaps less convincingly, they also found that ‘changes in biomass burning in the last 200 years may have been exacerbated or influenced by humans.’

    As mentioned in my introduction, it's a topic that is far from settled. Much the same as what to plant in order to recreate 'the natural' ecology of one's chosen landscape. One question will always remain: What time period are you hoping to recreate? Reminds of something Holmgren said in 2005 during my PDC: 'You never really get rid of weeds. Best we can ever hope for is a better class [more useful in the permaculture sense, I took him to mean type] of weed'.

    Whichever way you chose to go forward, go for it! I for one look forward to following your journey.

    Cheerio, Markos.
     
  8. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    That should of course read in the second last para: Reminds me of...

    And in the last sentence: Choose, rather than chose...

    (my brain is just about fried...)
     
  9. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    Hi Matt,

    Originally I wanted to build a forcefield:D very natural and sustainable, though the science isn't quite there yet.

    I thought about a hemp home, also considered straw bale, mud brick and rammed earth. What ultimately ruled them all out was floor height for the 1 in 100 year flood. Land is zoned flood-zone, being next to the Yarra River and even though land hasn't flooded since the dam was built, accepted floor height is 900 mm above existing ground level. I also had to pay for a bushfire report:doh:

    After soil report, Class P, and not finding bedrock, 4m plus down, draftsman proposed concrete piers, though this is incredibly heavy, expensive and wasteful.

    I am proposing, concrete slab, that 'floats on soil. construct 900mm high concrete filled besser block, this will act as sub floor. To keep weight down, timber frame and roof, walls clad with vinyl weatherboard and rendered foam, once insulated should have an R value of plus 4. Roof clad with colorbond.

    Has been designed and positioned for passive solar. We are not hooking up to the grid. Solar power, grey and blackwater wormfarm and reedbed filter and a 500,000 Lt watertank for irrigation.

    I always thought I would build the greenest house, though like most things in life, building is a compromise between reality and ethics. :handshake:
     
  10. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    Yes, finally I have my PRI Forum license:clap:



    Hi Markos, thanks for the welcome and response.

    Will check out 'The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia' sounds very interesting and I look forward to reading it.

    Thanks for the link to the paper as well, will have a good read when the time permits. What jumped out straight away, was using 60,000 years ago, as the time of Aboriginal
    arrival in Australia. Was this date used as that is the accurate maximum range of carbon dating and is the range of what science can currently prove and for all we know Aborigines could have been here 150,000 or 500,000 years before present.

    Anyway will have a read :)
     
  11. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    This is an interesting coversation.

    Brett, what prompted you to want to restore land to pre-aborigine?
     
  12. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    Hi Pebble, thanks for your interest.

    How long have you got?:)
    The catalyst was Black Saturday, 2009 and discovering small pockets of original cool temperate rainforest that stopped this superfire. Form that AHA moment, I completed a report, this and other documentation can be found at:

    https://mytreenature.com/southern-rainforest

    Over past three years have concluded that in Australia, apart from rainforest and mangroves, all of our other ecosystems have been altered by man.

    Fire creates more fire, we have a fire driven mentality, we burn a lot of things; forest, oil, coal, gas etc... Black Saturday super fire was a symbol of burning man mindset. The opposite of burning is cooling and moisture accumulation, which is what our rainforest is designed to do. I find it very interesting that the more land that is cleared the hotter the world becomes, scientists tell us it is to do with burnt and released carbon, my observations tell me that it is from removing the Earth's air-conditioners - rainforest - that is also a large contributor.

    Before Black Saturday, Victoria's rainforest cover was 17,000 Hectares and after it and subsequent salvage logging it is probably around 16,000 hectares.

    Some people worship the Aborigines and think they had all the answers for landscape management, they definitely had a great understanding and relationship with the land, but they also had an agenda, create grassland for their food and used fire to create this and for other purposes, such as war.

    We don't have the same agenda as the Aborigines, we have inherited a landscape that has been designed to burn. We never received a manual or textbook on how to manage an Aboriginal designed landscape. We are currently in no mans land.:(

    This is where my passion for rainforest ecosystems stems from. It was growing before Aboriginal influence and if we start to replant our mountains and farmlands with it, we will benefit with a cooled and balanced climate.

    Some people will argue that it is impossible to create rainforest in some landscapes, though with technology guided by wisdom any landscape can be transformed, it takes time, vision, resources, observation and patience. Just as man can destroy whole ecosystems, man can also create any ecosystem.:clap:

    This is why my wife and I have established Southern Rainforest and the whole idea of our first nursery is to act as a Hub for rainforest promotion, education, awareness and restoration.
     
  13. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Brett

    No method for choosing the date was mentioned in the paper. I guess the authors felt that it was a given, as I presume you do according to your paper?

    Possibly so. However, until evidence comes forward suggesting otherwise, I'm sticking with the probable 50,000 (give-or-take 10,000) years BP.

    Cheerio, Markos.
     
  14. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Brett, thanks for your reply. I'm not totally following all that because I don't know the Australian landscape well enough. Are you meaning that Victoria is now dry, eucalypt type bush, but was once rainforest like further north? I am interested in this where I live too - lots of now very dry native landscape that used to have forest and swamp in it. But many people are in love with the 'iconic' barren tussock and scrub land. It's native, but not as it used to be. Mostly the problem here is farming (overgrazing and burnoffs).
     
  15. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    On the megafauna issue read Connie Barlow "The Ghosts of Evolution". You'll never look at the bush in the same way! Mollison wrote in the Designers Manual that "everything gardens"...in other words everything modifies the ecosystem around it to better suit it's needs. When you come to an ecosystem as an impartial observer, and that ecosystem has been in a more or less stable state for some time, it appears that everything simply fits together harmoniously. But in fact all of the players play to win. Eucalypts and acacias are flammable, and fire helps disperse their seeds and the seeds like to come up in bare burnt ground....and so the problem of the fire is a solution to them. Rainforest plants are the opposite, and so discouraging fire is their agenda. The thesis of Barlow's book is that there is a whole cadre of plants, in the Americas at least, that evolved in the presence of megafauna...evolved to deal with their browsing and grazing, and evolved to take advantage of their ability to disperse seeds. Many of these plants are somewhat out of place now, bearing structures that have no apparent function, and some of them are in decline.
     
  16. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    G'day Markos,

    Will we ever really know.

    I just question some of the science coming out. I looked into doing a Masters in Forestry, with Melbourne Uni at Creswick and found it very interesting, that all the focus is on growing commercial Eucalyptus plantations. There is nothing on growing rainforest species that once existed on most of our current plantation land.

    Universities can't be blamed for this as they have to educate people for an established industry. Currently there is no rainforest industry in Victoria and likewise very little R&D.
     
  17. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    G'day Pebble,

    That is it, you have hit the nail on the head. I remember visiting the south island of NZ and on the west coast being blown away by the granduer of your Beech rainforests. Since you don't have Eucalypts, what are your hardy, pioneer, fire prone species?

    In Australia, I would add logging and mining to farming as the list of causes and we have the same fascination with the iconic gumtree, dry burnt scrub, people in my own family didn't even know Victoria has rainforest.

    To help display, the basic concept, here are some photos from the Styx valley in southern Tasmania, ( Victoria's rainforest is almost identical)

    Below: Classed as mixed forest, and this is how they are technically allowed to log it, as in Australia all rainforest is protected. The tallest trees are Eucalypts, next layer is cool temperate rainforest and then ground cover of ferns. When the Eucalyptus canopy matures, 400 years plus, it dies out and reverts to pure rainforest. If forest doesn't experience disturbance, it is a closed rainforest and virtually fireproof. On a side note: Wet Eucalypts still germinate in the absence of fire.
    [​IMG]


    Below:After disturbance, this time a road cut, pioneer species such as Eucalyptus Regnans germinate. In time they provide a microclimate for rainforest to establish. Background, cool temperate rainforest, replacing Eucalyptus canopy.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Above: The reality; once rainforest is cut, it enter a 30 to 70 year cycle, of clearfell, harvest, burning and regeneration. Rainforest is never planted back and after 2 or 3 cycles, rainforest seed is extinct and land becomes a fire prone desert such as below (Flowerdale, Black Saturday fire zone of Eucalyptus plantation):
    [​IMG]


    Below: 'Non managed' reserve of rainforest in the Central Highlands, Victoria and where it stopped the Black Saturday fire.
    [​IMG]


    These simple photos display how man alters an ecosytem in 150 years. What impact did Aborigines have over 50K or 200,000 years? We could only imagine.
     
  18. brettc

    brettc Junior Member

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    G'day Adiantum,

    Thanks for the recommendation, sounds like an interesting read.

    This is all pure speculation, but do you think that the megafauna became extinct because they ate themselves out of house and home or as Tim Flannery explains, they were hunted to extinction by humans?
     
  19. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    Most of what I'm reading is saying that on continents, rapid climate change at the end of the last ice age as well as human hunting both likely contributed to the demise of the megafauna. On islands, (even islands as large as New Zealand and Madagascar) the finger squarely points at us humans, since most islands were not settled till well after the end of the last ice age, and megafauna extinctions line up pretty nicely with the discovery and settlement of each island in turn.
     
  20. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Proposal to research indigenous medicines
    Peter Jean
    February 18, 2012


    Read more: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/na...s-medicines-20120217-1teys.html#ixzz1oInFauhz
    ''We are one of the very few major countries that doesn't actually respect its indigenous medicine the way that it should,'' Dr Morrow said.
    In a budget submission to the federal government, the council said funding should be provided for a comprehensive stocktake of specific indigenous medicines in consultation with traditional owners. The work would build on research already undertaken at Macquarie University.
    ''This should then lead to a position where analysis of the key substances leads to pilot clinical trials being undertaken on those key substances,'' the submission said


    Read more: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/na...s-medicines-20120217-1teys.html#ixzz1oIn5dj68

    Bush medicine
    Australian scientists are tapping into the traditional knowledge of Aboriginal Elders to compile a database of medicinal plants that may hold the key to more effective antibacterial and antifungal treatments.

    Researchers from Macquarie University's Indigenous Bioresources Research Group (IBRG) have worked closely with the Yaegl people in northern NSW to document their medicinal plant knowledge, and have also begun phase two of their study - examining the chemical and biological properties of the plants.

    Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemist Associate Professor Joanne Jamie said the research aim was to conserve customary Aboriginal knowledge, and apply this to the discovery of new evidence-based alternative medicines.

    "People in developing countries understand the value of traditional medicines - roughly 80 per cent of them see these customary medicines as their primary form of healthcare," Jamie said.https://www.science.mq.edu.au/news_and_events/news/bush_medicine
     

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